Treating Depression at Scale in Africa

StrongMinds is the only organization working to scale a model to treat depression throughout Africa. Our unique community-based model of group talk therapy is simple, innovative and cost-effective.


StrongMinds treats depression using group interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT-G), delivered by lay community-based counselors. This manualized, time-bound talk therapy model emphasizes relationships as the root of – and source of recovery for – depression. IPT-G is well-studied in low- and middle-income countries and is recommended by the WHO as a first-line depression intervention in resource-poor settings.

In therapy groups, members find a safe space to open up with peers about their worries and struggles. Over 6-10 sessions, counselors guide structured discussions to help participants identify the underlying triggers of their depression and examine how their current relationships and their depression are linked. Together, they strategize solutions to their problems, learn coping mechanisms, practice interpersonal skills, and identify support structures that they can continue to lean on after therapy has ended.

Members work together to strategize solutions for overcoming their challenges, forming strong social bonds in the process. Since depression is episodic and recurrent throughout most people’s lives, these newly acquired skills have both immediate and long-term preventive impacts for the individual.


The sessions are divided into three phases, each with distinct objectives:

  • Initial Phase: This phase focuses on building trust and rapport among group members so that they feel comfortable opening up with one another.
  • Middle Phase: This phase ensures that all members are actively engaged in discussion and collective problem-solving. Participants learn to fully understand the symptoms and triggers of depression.
  • Termination Phase: By this stage, most participants have experienced a substantial reduction in the severity of their depression symptoms. As they prepare for the end of formal sessions, each will make a plan to identify and mitigate triggers in the future, so that they can prevent recurring depressive episodes.


We achieve sustainability by identifying and training former clients and local health workers to facilitate StrongMinds therapy groups in their communities, spreading the seeds of good mental health widely. We also work with governments and NGOs to integrate mental health services into livelihood, food security, healthcare, and education programs in order to scale our reach and enhance outcomes for program participants.


IPT-G focuses on four key problem areas that can trigger depression.

  • Grief over loss (sustained)
  • Life changes (such as job loss, marriage, divorce, unwelcome diagnoses, becoming a parent, etc.)
  • Unresolved conflict (among family members, friends, or work colleagues)
  • Social isolation